2014 Recap

For something a little different, I thought it would be fun to hijack my husband’s phone and share a few of his photos from 2014 with you. A year in review through his eyes.

In no particular order, here are a few photos that I feel capture his perspective about our ranch and our life.

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Our oldest son working hard at barn duty during the county fair. These 4H steers represent a lot of hard work for our entire family, especially our two older boys. Finishing these steers takes several months and that means a lot of feeding chores every morning and night. The whole family gets involved in the steers’ exercise program. My daughter (who feels completely discriminated against by the silly 4H rule that a child must be nine years old before they start 4H) is always happy to step in to walk steers or wash steers and, yes, her brothers take full advantage of her willingness to help.

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Animals. His phone is full of photos of the kids with different animals. At first I skimmed over these photos because I thought they captured my kids, but not really anything about the ranch. Then I realized that although the photos may be blurry or grainy, they show exactly what our life is all about. Animals. Caring for animals. This is what we do and who we are. And looking at these photos reminds me once again that I love my life.

2015/01/img_0966.jpg All kinds of critters around here! A friend of ours had a swarm of bees escape from the hive boxes last summer. It was amazing to see the side of the pick-up completely covered with bees. It was equally interesting watching him with his smoker as he collected the bees to return to the hive box.

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Sadly, it wouldn’t be summer for us if we didn’t have a fire. This was the first puff of smoke from the Day Fire that burned some of our country last summer.

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Watching the equipment that fights fires is a source of never-ending excitement for my kids. Planes, helicopters, fire trucks and heavy equipment are all on exhibit during a fire and my kids love it. However, when we drove past this scene, they quickly took in how serious this situation must have been for the dozer driver.

2015/01/img_0968.jpg Which brings me to the driving abilities of my husband.
You know when your family sits around the dinner table with guests and you start swapping stories? My kids start requesting certain stories that they think we should share with our guests. Most of those requests being with this: “Mom, you should tell the story of when you rescued Dad because he was stuck on the mountain…..or……on the desert……..or…….in the creek…..”
In other words, photos like this are easy to find on my husband’s phone.

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And the final photos that were taken over Christmas Break. The two middle children setting aside their nonstop bickering to haul salt to a couple of fields. They love the responsibility of being given such a grown-up chore and I love the sense of ownership it gives them in the cattle and the land. I went with them on this trip and tried to be as quiet as possible. They talked to each other about the best place to position the salt tubs, how to navigate through ditches, which gates they could (or couldn’t) open and if the cattle were in good condition.

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My favorite part of the trip was watching my son refer to the list he had written. He took notes while his Dad told him how much salt to put in each field. It is oh-so-heartening to see that at least one of my children inherited my list-making abilities!

Eat More Beef

Today I am at the California Cattlemen’s annual convention listening to Dr. Shalene McNeill talk about why you should feel great about eating beef and serving it to out children.

Why?

Because it is full of nutrients that our bodies need! Zinc, protein, iron, and B vitamins just to name a few. Dr. McNeill points out that very few foods taste so great that we want to eat more of it AND is a nutritional powerhouse!

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Kids at Work

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Today the crew is out of school. We quickly put them to work and spent the day processing calves. When we process our calves we vaccinate for respiratory diseases, clostridial diseases and pink eye. Next, we give a shot of MultiMin to insure the calves are getting the required minerals and nutrients that they need, but may not be getting for various reasons. For example, there is a selenium deficiency where we live and this MultiMin shot gives them the selenium that they require. We also give each calf a dewormer to keep bugs and grubs off of them.

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The kids enjoy working with the calves because they are able to be a little more hands on–parental supervision is still required, however. Yes, there is a possibility they could get injured, but it’s much less dangerous than working with mama cows that weigh over 1200 pounds.

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It took all day to get it done and we were definitely chasing daylight with the last pen of calves. By the time we were finished, the kids were tired and we were all ready for a large bowl of chili. In many ways it was just another ordinary day on the ranch for us, yet it had a magical quality that can only be found on a perfect fall day spent working together as a family.

Catching Up

Can someone please tell me where August went? It went speeding past me so fast, that it was nothing more than a blur. September is threatening to do the same thing; I see it gathering speed each time I glance at the calendar.

Let me catch you up on the activities around here. School started a couple of weeks ago. This is a big year for our family; our oldest started junior high and our youngest started Kindergarten.

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Fortunately they have each adapted to their new surroundings and are enjoying the school year. I wish I could say that I am adapting as quickly, but it sure seems quiet during the day with all of the kids at school!

When I am not taking kids to or from school, I have been spending time with this sweet horse, Betty.

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She and I have helped gather and wean most of the heifers. Admittedly, she is officially in my husband’s string of horses, but that junior high boy I mentioned earlier keeps stealing my horses!

I have been taking care of the heifers that we weaned. Not a difficult job, mostly requires maintenance of this water trough, making sure they have enough feed in the fields they are in, and keeping them contained in those fields.

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Today I am on my way to Denver for a checkoff meeting, specifically an Operating Committee meeting. I have been preparing for a few weeks now and am hopeful that it will be successful. Over the next two days the Operating Committee will hear proposals for checkoff program work in fiscal year 2015. The Committee will decide which proposals to fund based on how well those proposals meet the goals of the beef industry’s Long Range Plan. We will be allocating nearly $40M of producer and importer dollars, so we do not make the funding decisions lightly. It will definitely be an intense couple of days, but I am confident the Committee will make strong decisions and our checkoff work will continue to bring an excellent ROI to all beef producers.

Fire Season

Our first (and hopefully only) fire of the year. This one was on our summer country in the timber of Northern California.

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We lost a great deal of grazing country that is going to force us to ship cattle out of here much sooner than we had planned. The past few days have been spent gathering cattle and bringing them down to meadows we had been saving for fall feed.

There were three fires in this area and one of them burned several homes. We have been counting our blessings–we still have a house and barn, as well as our cattle.

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When this fire started I was in Denver at the cattle industry’s Summer Conference. I was in a meeting when my husband texted me, telling me that the fire was close to the house and he was grabbing what he could before loading the kids and dogs to evacuate. Talk about a helpless feeling! My family needed me and I was in a meeting 1200 miles away. Absolutely nothing I could do–except remind my husband to grab our daughter’s favorite teddy bear. And pray.

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I was surrounded by cattlemen and women who understood the importance of our meetings and also the frustration of being away from the ranch at such a critical time. I was reminded, once again, that our industry consists of amazing people and I am so humbled to be a part of it.

Letter to my Readers

Dear Friends,

I am writing this letter to answer the number one question I have received from many of you over recent months: “Kim, have you abandoned blogging?”

I can hardly fault you for asking. There is no denying that my blog is suffering from neglect. I have so enjoyed sharing photos and stories from my family’s ranch with all of you over the past five years. I have tried to be transparent with you, sharing the good times and the tough times. But, there is a part of my ranch life that I have kept from you.

In the beef industry we have a national checkoff program that requires cattle producers to pay $1.00/head each time a bovine animal is sold. That $1.00 is used to promote beef, educate consumers about beef and conduct beef research on both a state and national level. Many years ago, I was involved with the Idaho Beef Council which manages the checkoff program throughout the state. On the national level, checkoff programs are overseen by the Cattlemen’s Beef Board (CBB) and I am currently chairing that Board. It has been a significant time commitment for me, requiring travel to various meetings each month, not to mention the weekly conference calls or the daily emails and phone calls. In other words, the time that I used to spend on blogging is now consumed by my CBB work.

It is a tremendous privilege and honor to be serving in this position. It may be the most humbling job I have ever held (next to motherhood, of course–nothing is more humbling than that!). As I travel the country and meet with cattle producers from all walks of life, I am reminded that the decisions my officer team makes this year absolutely must be in the best interest of all the cattle producers in this country. It’s a little overwhelming at times.

Initially, I made the decision to not talk about my CBB work on this blog, because frankly things were a little contentious in the checkoff arena for a while. I didn’t want to have BeefMatters dragged into the fray. Now I realize this was a mistake. I am proud of the work I have done over the years and I want to share with you the last few months of this journey with you.

I hope you will forgive me and still take the time to read BeefMatters. I will do my best to keep you up to speed with life on the ranch and also fill you in a little on my CBB work. No time like the present, right? Let me tell you about the meeting I attended over the weekend.

I was invited to speak at the Georgia Cattle Association’s summer meeting. I have been to a number of other southeastern states, but never to Georgia and I was looking forward to the trip. I was not disappointed. Let me assure you that Southern Hospitality is alive and well in the great state of Georgia. Those folks were kind, gracious, unfailingly polite, and made me feel right at home. They were a wonderful audience–listened attentively, laughed at my jokes (thank you!), and asked many questions. We discussed the impact the checkoff has on consumer demand for beef, not only domestically, but also in our foreign markets.

The afternoon was spent touring Georgia farms and taking in the beautiful scenery of the Chattahoochee National Forest. My hosts picked my brain about cattle production in the high deserts of Idaho and patiently explained to me the struggles they face in their hot and humid environment, combined with the obstacle of the tremendous distance to the feedyards in the Midwest.

I left Georgia with many new friends, a (slowly) developing taste for grits and the knowledge that the cattlemen and women in the southeast understand the value of the checkoff to their own farms and ranches. And, once again, I am humbled by the dedication and tenacity of America’s cattle producers.

It was a fantastic trip, but I am anxious to get home. My husband reminds me that there is work to be done–horses to ride, cows to move and salt to be hauled out. And, yes, I am looking forward to all of that, but mostly I miss my kids. The best part of returning home is the moment I walk through the door and instantly have four kids jostling around me, all trying to be the first to hug Mom. Everyone is talking at once, telling me what I have missed and asking about my meetings.

It’s noisy and chaotic and messy–it’s exactly what I love most.

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Loading Trucks with My Top Hand

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For the past couple of weeks we have been shipping our cattle from our winter ground to our summer ground. The grass up north is ready for cattle and, trust me, these cows are ready to see green grass!

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Loading trucks is a group effort; my whole family helps gather the cattle and bring them to the corral. Then my husband, oldest son and I sort the cattle in preparation for the trucks’ arrival.

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This boy is twelve and loves being a cowboy. He can’t wait to get home from school so he can saddle his horse and get some “real” work done. It has been so fun watching him develop into a good hand on the ranch.

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I’m not sure the day will ever come when this little hooligan claims the title of Top Hand!

Hard at Work

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My family hard at work.

Or is it play? Branding is hard work, no doubt about it. But, it’s also fun. We invite family and friends to our brandings. People get to rope, visit, and eat lunch together. We look forward to it as some of our favorite work days all year.

And I love that my young family enjoys working and playing together.

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